Jeff Holt is a therapist in Denton, Texas whose poems have been published in
William Baer’s Sonnets: 150 Contemporary Sonnets, The Formalist, Measure, The Evansville Review, Pivot, Iambs &
Trochees, The Texas Review, Rattappallax, Cumberland Poetry Review, Sparrow,
The Waiting Room
This is the place where families cross their legs
And stare, sightless, at unobtrusive art.
This is the place where every minute drags
Like a dead body heaved onto a cart.
A mother clasps her hands, as if in prayer,
Then bows her head and curses quietly.
A husband thinks that if he’d just seen more,
His wife would not be having surgery.
Death breathes upon these souls who wait in need
Of angels wearing scrubs to proffer grace.
All wait alone, and none are reassured
By memories of a loved one’s pleading face.
In purgatory they await the words
Of gods who fail as often as succeed.
published in The Raintown Review Vol. 10, Issue 1, Sept. 2011
A stranger’s planting seeds in parts of me,
Staking his claim in my internal land.
He turns his spade; I twist in agony.
I pray that he will tire and rest his hand.
At first the stranger dug within my breast.
A lump arose, the first fruit of his crop.
He left it there. Never content to rest,
He moved into my lungs. He will not stop
Until he’s drained my soil of nutrients.
To him, my organs are just ripening.
He doesn’t know he toils at my expense;
I’m just a field that he is harvesting.
published in Able Muse Anthology, Able Muse Press, 2010
She’s in the living room now, lying still.
He’d found her sobbing, lied to calm her down,
Retreated. Hanging slacks, he sees them spill,
Sliding as if in terror, then a brown
Heap on the dusty carpet. Rather than
Bend down, he stretches out, shutting his eyes.
She will not cook tonight. Later, a can
Of soup, some crackers.
Dreaming, he hears cries
Beneath the floor as he is rummaging
Among his clothes that must have multiplied.
Where are his slacks? The closet’s widening,
The door is shut and now the voice that cried
Wails, falls: his or his wife’s? He drops his hands.
Surrounding him are endless clothes, demands.
published in Measure, Vol. 1, 2006
Home wasn’t safe. I learned to freeze my tears
Before they spilled, and stow my fears away
Behind half-lidded eyes. I lived in darkness,
Accepting that when Dad demanded silence
I would stay still. You chose a different road.
I’m left to mourn my stubborn older brother.
You swore you wished you’d never had a brother,
Screaming at me when Dad left you in tears.
Eventually I’d trail you down the road,
Kicking at pebbles, searching for a way
To win you back. I starved within your silence;
I needed you because you shared my darkness.
But you were not content to hide in darkness
And did not listen to your younger brother.
I hated that you wouldn’t heed Dad’s silence;
Your screams shook me, as did your storms of tears.
You swore so often that you’d run away
I feared you’d die, helpless, on a cold road.
I see you on your skateboard, how you rode
Heedless of gravity. You flew through darkness,
Leaping, often tumbling, dancing away
From rules and caution. You found cooler brothers,
Boys with skull rings, some with tattoos of tears,
Who mocked our dad’s suburban cave of silence.
For a brief time, with them, you broke your silence,
Flippng off cars as you flew down the road.
But then you came home bleeding, sick with tears,
And pummeled me, as if I were the darkness.
Dad heard me screaming at my older brother
And came for you. You didn’t turn away.
The night you took Mom’s keys and drove away,
I hated you for leaving me in silence.
I didn’t know that I would lose my brother
To rage and alcohol and a lake road
Where rain beat down like tears of the gods in darkness.
But here, tonight, as I stare through my tears,
I’m with you on that road that leads away
From icy tears, the path to final silence,
My brother, driving wildly in the darkness.
Published in The Shit Creek Review, Issue 13, 2011
She sits and stares at the TV
As if she’s found an enemy
Somewhere behind the still, gray screen,
Someone like her, but weak and mean,
An idiot who cannot see
Beyond an urge to simply flee
When frustrated. Before long he
Will walk in, maybe make a scene.
She sits and stares,
Knowing he doesn’t mean to be
So like her father. Cautiously
She squints and mouths something obscene
At the scared girl, just seventeen,
Who’s looking back, alone but free.
She sits and stares.
Published in The Raintown Review Vol. 11, Issue 1, Feb. 2013
Their leader lifts his hand. They rise as one
Like soldiers tensed before a battlefield.
Holding their hymnals close, they hear again
The organ’s call. Soon they join in, made bold
By stanzas asking men to bathe in blood.
They stand together in their crimson gowns,
Bright books in hand, their faces stiff as wood,
In ranks like God's as yet uncaptured pawns.
I sit inside this house of faith, head bowed,
A child again, confused by reverence.
I was baptized to make my parents proud
But find no comfort in God's violence.
I crouch in silence, wishing I could lie
And join these warriors, unafraid to die.
Published in The Evansville Review, XVI, 2006
Were we in love? I shut my eyes or laugh,
Drifting away from well-meant, loaded questions
Insisting that a man can't droop with grief
At losing a mere friend. Offered suggestions
On how to cope, I see your wide, dark eyes,
Hear your complaints that no one understands.
At least I listened. Now I wade through days,
Submerging you in tepid pools, demands
Of work, but you float up when work has ended.
I do not call; I'm sure your wife still says
You shared too much with me. Your last words sounded
Recorded, like a toy's assurances
That you were happy and were still my friend.
How could our conversation simply end?
How could our conversation simply end
With your assertion that we're older now,
As if our age is just a reprimand
For years we shared? I still remember how
You'd call me, shaking with the need to search
For understanding. On those desperate nights
We sat in darkness smoking on my porch
Defying time as all the neighbors' lights
Winked out as if respecting privacy.
We shared our fears the way we shared our smoke,
Soaking in toxins of anxiety,
And I felt cleansed, as if I'd never choke
On shame again. But now you will not come.
I sit here reminiscing, feeling numb.
I sit here reminiscing, feeling numb,
Still smoking but believing I should quit.
This porch, without you, is a picture frame
Emptied, still hanging. Smoke, indefinite,
Flows from my lips like words no one will hear.
Each pair of headlights piercing my dark street
Is yours until it's passed or mocked my stare
By winking out. I must concede defeat:
You won't return, or worse, you will, transformed
Into a stranger stretching out his hand,
Wearing a grin. We'll chat until we've squirmed
Enough to satisfy convention and
You'll leave. I crush my burning cigarette
And sit in darkness, chilled by beads of sweat.
Published in Iambs & Trochees, Vol. 3, Issue 2, Fall 2004
Confessions of a Coffee House Poet
I didn't like organic tea,
But Coke seemed juvenile.
I'd hear my name and stalk up front,
Determined not to smile.
My hair was tangled like the verse
I growled into the mike.
The crowd, excited when I'd swear,
Would cheer as if on strike.
"As I am bitter, I am real!"
I'd roar in melodramas.
I shunned the forms that might block me
Or catch my misused commas.
I played with faces 'til I found
My gazing looked intense.
I claimed my writing was cathartic,
Hoping I'd made sense.
I ruled a princedom filled with smoke
Each Saturday at six.
I spread my visionary art
And picked up lots of chicks.
Published in Iambs & Trochees, Vol. 3, Issue 2, Fall 2004